July 3, 2014

THE SKED Pilot + 1 Review: “Taxi Brooklyn”


TAXI BROOKLYN:  Wednesday 10PM on NBC

A lot can happen between the creation of a TV pilot and the production of regular episodes: writer/producers may be hired or fired, audience focus groups weigh in, networks and studios (which may have had their own turnover) give plenty of notes, helpful and otherwise, and critics start to rear their ugly heads. Tone, pace, casting, and even story can change. Here at THE SKED, we’re going to look past the pilots and present reviews of the first regular season episodes as well.

Previously… on TAXI BROOKLYN:  Cat Sullivan (Chyler Leigh) is a grouchy (but spunky and cute) NYPD detective whose driving is so bad that she’s been demoted to walking a beat.  Luckily for her, she’s made the acquaintance of Leo Romba (Jacky Ido), a genial French ex-con and illegal immigrant (he was on the run from murderous mobsters and desperate to make his escape to the US), who not only happens to drive a cab, but who has a remarkable range of knowledge about everything from car engines to cocaine.  Leo agrees to be Cat’s ride, and also to help her solve the mysterious death of her father, himself a cop.  Cat also comes equipped with a gruff precinct captain (James Colby) and an awful FBI agent ex-husband (Bill Heck), who cheated on her and continues to betray her in every way possible.

Episode 2:  This is how shoddy Taxi Brooklyn is (and how little NBC cares):  the on-screen graphic at the start of tonight’s episode literally read “Previously on TAXY BROOKLYN.”  (Also, the episode appeared to have been delivered to the network without the usual space for commercials, so the action would abruptly cut to an ad without any fade or pause.)  The episode itself was, unhappily, fully in keeping with this lack of care.

Written by series co-creators Gary Scott Thompson and Stephen Tolkin, it reprised one of the oldest and most predictable procedural set-ups:  4 or 5 characters are introduced in an opening sequence as possible suspects (in the killing of a fashion millionaire’s son), the idiot FBI agent quickly identifies one as the killer (so we know that’s a red herring), and two of the remaining group turn out to be the villains, including the one whose presence was so conspicuously unnecessary in the early scene that he could only be in the story in order to be guilty.  Even CBS, home of the old-skewing procedural, would be embarrassed by such an arthritic storyline.

Procedurals can survive dumb mysteries if the characters are appealing and the dialogue is sharp, but while Leigh and Ido are pleasant enough company, we’re just 2 episodes in, and the dynamic between their characters is painfully repetitive.  Over and over, Cat grumbles at Leo and doubts his brilliant insights, which all turn out to be right on the money, while he grins and never loses his composure, except when the claustrophobia he developed in his French jail stay comes into play.  Leo is scarily close to the stereotype of the “magic Negro” (see:  Will Smith in The Legend of Bagger Vance, Michael Clarke Duncan in The Green Mile), who exists to turn up in a white person’s life to loosen her up, rescue her and make her a better human being.  An attempt to create some last-minute excitement by having Cat’s rotten ex turn Leo in to Immigration at the end of the episode isn’t particularly suspenseful, since if he were deported, the show would be over–which might be good news for viewers, but not likely the plan for NBC.

Even the production values of Taxi Brooklyn are sub-standard, despite the professional presence of Luc Besson’s production company (the show is based on his original movie from early in his career) and Olivier Megaton (Taken 2, Transporter 2) as director.  The series is shot on location in New York, but aside from an early scene in Coney Island, most of the episode looked like it might have been set in Louisiana.

Last week’s premiere rating of 1.0 wasn’t much of a start, but Taxi Brooklyn has America’s Got Talent as its lead-in (last week’s was a rerun), so it’s not necessarily a goner.  Even compared to the so-so summer quality level of The Night Shift, though, Taxi Brooklyn is a poor effort.

ORIGINAL VERDICT:  Change the Channel

PILOT + 1:  Take the Subway


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."